It has always been a market leader in consumer and industrial electronics but Fujitsu, the Japanese multinational technology provider, is fast becoming known for its digital transformation capabilities. This skill set has been significantly strengthened by the recent voluntary public takeover of GK Software, which according to Martin Hawkes, Fujitsu’s global retail business development manager, has helped the company to become “a business outcome-enabler through the use of technology”.
With over 30 years of retail solutions experience, platforms supporting more than 12 billion transactions a year and a definitive presence in 66 countries worldwide, it is easy to see why the tie-in with GK Software, which is recognised as a leading provider of retail software, is bearing fruit.
Hawkes says: “From our perspective, the acquisition agreement enables Fujitsu to wrap extended service depth and strength around the SaaS platforms to drive greater business value into retailers.”
For Nigel Naylor-Smith, the company’s head of retail, hospitality and transport, the tie-in with GK Software “very much represents the missing piece of the jigsaw” in the sense that “it turbo-charges” Fujitsu’s cloud and SaaS omnichannel capabilities, and provides huge opportunities to “engage in areas such as intelligent dynamic pricing and personalisation across channels”.
Extending GK’s access to Fujitsu’s enhanced technologies such as AI and HPC will also further accelerate those capabilities, he adds.
That is not to say that Fujitsu isn’t already making huge strides in enabling organisations in the retail and hospitality sector to tackle major challenges and achieve better technological business outcomes.
The pandemic, says Naylor-Smith, “forced people to change their behaviour” and this, he notes “has had a major impact” on the hospitality sector, particularly fast food restaurants. He says that one sea-change has been a huge surge in demand for quick-service fast food eateries (QSRs).
Today 70% of fast-food transactions are generated from drive-thru’s worth approximately £2.8bn. But to meet customer needs and re-orientate the business model to embrace drive-thrus was not easy for some QSRs, says Naylor-Smith. “Often, service capacity has failed to keep pace with demand as seen during the pandemic,” he explains.
To help bridge the gap, Fujitsu created the Capture Machine Vision Solution. Capture generates real drive thru benefits from speed of service, to empowerment of staff with real time data, to increased sales through an optimised customer experience.
Naylor-Smith explains: “These solutions accurately measure and generate true journey visibility and operation including any queues outside. The outcome – critical actionable insights with Vehicle License Plate Recognition offering QSRs the opportunity to recognise repeat customers and personalise the experience. One major fast food chain has reduced transaction times by around 11% and increased sales revenues by 17%.
Another considerable pain point for both the hospitality and retail sectors has been crippling operational costs. With every retailer in the UK affected, Fujitsu has addressed this problem through its QikPik solution. Working with Hatmill supply chain consultants, it has developed a WMS SaaS plug-in that reduces pick-walking distance.
“In a nutshell,” says Naylor-Smith, “it massively improves productivity, and efficiency by re-sequencing trollies and re-routing the pick-walk in the most optimal manner. It does so by using quantum-inspired tech, which makes it possible for us to consider all possible permutations from your live WMS data”
While a full set of results are yet to be collated, Naylor-Smith says that feedback so far from Tier 1 fashion and grocery retailers reveals “a productivity increase by up to 30%”.
Another example of where Fujitsu is adding value to client operations is its Digital Age Assurance offering. This technology addresses a major pain-point experienced by customers of retail or hospitality businesses. Whenever age- restricted products are purchased, the law dictates a cashier must check the age of the person buying the product – no matter how old they are.
In a busy supermarket this can sometimes take several minutes and is a major source of frustration for customers and retailers alike. Fujitsu has, however, solved this challenge by creating advanced computer vision and facial biometric technologies that can accurately estimate a person’s age, and enable younger customers to prove their age digitally.
Hawkes thinks the technology, which could be deployed across the length and breadth of retail and hospitality operations, has vast potential. He says, “We believe this solution, which has been externally accredited for accuracy and bias, and is currently being evaluated at two of the top-six UK grocers, will increase colleague productivity, and reduce customer queues and payment times. We also think that it will drive safe and compliant operations and improve customer engagement.”
Fujitsu technology is also being utilised by the retail sector to reduce shrinkage, which Hawkes says accounts for “around £40 pounds of losses per day per self-check-out”.
To combat shrinkage, Fujitsu has developed a self-scan security module that monitors customer scans at the self-checkout to highlight potential issues to staff.
“This module,” explains Hawkes, “utilises AI technology and proven security business logic, providing retailers with a highly effective tool to reduce shrinkage with a significantly lower total cost of ownership than traditional methods. It is currently being trialled by several large retailers and is seen by them as a game-changer in reducing shrinkage and lower costs.”
But despite cementing its reputation as a business outcome-enabler, both Naylor-Smith and Hawkes believe there are hurdles that need to be negotiated before the retail and hospitality sector is able to make the most of new technologies, such as AI and quantum physics.
While resource constraints and skills retention immediately come to mind, Naylor-Smith, says that the greatest barrier that is stymying progress is a lack of “confidence in the accurate identification and execution of the business case”.
He explains, “The question I often hear is ‘how can I be sure where to invest’? To help answer it, we have launched the Kozuchi AI Platform where customers can securely achieve rapid business validation and testing of their use case from quite frankly a modest starting point.”
The second major challenge is “the visible public mistrust” around tech, “such as AI and the unanticipated side-effects, including discrimination”.
Fujitsu’s solution is to focus on an ethics-by-design approach. Naylor-Smith maintains whilst AI will be “intrinsic to all our futures”, it has to be “transparent, fair and accountable”.
He cites Fujitsu’s Digital Age Assurance technology as a good example as to how AI should be used.
“We are the first organisation to pass the Age Check Certification Scheme’s test for inherent bias. So we are committed to use new technology in the right way – our vision of making the world more sustainable by building trust in society through innovation underpins that. It is innovation that addresses the challenges businesses face, but will also help to solve societal issues.”
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